Qualifying for the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) 67th Annual Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals proved to be more of a challenge than usual as rain washed out both Saturday sessions for most categories competing at Lucas Oil Raceway, resulting in elimination fields being set based on a single Friday evening run.
Leah Pruett, last year’s Top Fuel runner-up finisher at Indianapolis, will start her drive for another shot at a final-round appearance from the No. 5 position on the eliminations ladder after taking her Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge//SRT Redeye dragster for a solid qualifying pass under the lights. Her 3.755 second elapsed time (E.T.) run @ 322.88 mph gives her lane choice over No. 12 seed, Joe Morrison.
In Funny Car qualifying action, three-time U.S. Nationals Funny Car title winner Cruz Pedregon’s Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was the top HEMI®-powered entry starting from the fourth spot earned with a 3.896-second drive @ 323.66 mph. The Cruz Pedregon Racing team owner and driver will have No. 13 seed, Terry Haddock, as his first-round opponent on Sunday.
DSR’s 27-year veteran driver Ron Capps also positioned his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in the top half of the field with a 3.907 second/326.08 mph effort to go into the final eliminations battle of the regular season as the No. 6 seed. Capps will have No. 11 Justin Schriefer in the next lane as he sets his sights on battling for the elusive Wally trophy from the only NHRA event he has never won.
As the DSR Funny Car team prepared to take to the staging lanes for Friday qualifying, the team announced that two-time U.S. Nationals winner and category points leader Matt Hagan had recently tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be competing in this year’s event. In his place, the team called upon Tommy Johnson Jr. to take on the driving responsibilities for Hagan’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Funny Car. Johnson was the easy choice after finishing second in the 2020 NHRA Funny Car World Championship with DSR with three wins and three No. 1 qualifier positions last season.
Efforts to qualify the hard-charging Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye for the prestigious Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals and add to Hagan’s point total were short-lived. Following a mechanical issue, found immediately after the burnout, that didn’t give Johnson the chance to take the tree, any opportunity to get in a run on Saturday was washed out by persistent rainfall. That left Johnson with no qualifying time and without a spot on the eliminations ladder, a situation that also, unfortunately, meant that no points would be awarded to Hagan. With the unique points-and-a-half format employed at this final regular-season event, that drops the DSR driver several positions in the final battle for position in the Funny Car standings heading into the NHRA’s “Countdown to the Championship” which begins next weekend at the Mopar Express Lane Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania.
In Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown (FSS), Pruett took her 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak for a 7.969 second run @ 176.79 mph to earn the No. 12 spot on the eliminations ladder comprised of a competitive 22-car field. Following two runner-up finishes this season in consecutive events at Denver and Topeka, Pruett is seeking another FSS win at the U.S. Nationals to add to her 2018 Indy victory.
You can watch the 67th Annual Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. National LIVE today on FS1 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then on FOX from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT.